The government must take an inventory of how many key agricultural species and technologies are still indigenous to Taiwan and hold on to them to safeguard the superiority of the Taiwan brand on the international market, academics said recently.
Along with the rapid growth in cross-strait exchanges and China’s establishment of the so-called “Taiwanese innovative farming parks,” the techniques that have led to the development and production of Taiwanese agricultural wonders, such as orchids, golden diamond pineapples, golden mangoes and Oolong tea, have been exported to China, seriously undermining Taiwan’s share of the international market.
Chen Lee Agricultural Reform research team executive director Tu Yu (杜宇) said Taiwan has limited agricultural land compared with China and cannot count on mass production to sustain economies of scale.
That is why Taiwan should take advantage of its self-developed techniques and products to form the core of its agricultural exports, Tu said, adding that about 70 to 80 percent of the products, which are not limited to flowers and fruit, but also include fish farming, found in China’s “innovative farming parks” were from Taiwan.
The parks, which have been officially approved by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office and Ministry of Agriculture, provide land, tax incentives and assistance with software and hardware development, as well as discounts on joint ventures. Those incentives are seen as a means to encourage the transfer of Taiwan’s techniques and experienced workers to China.
Tu said the government should consider imposing criminal sentences on people caught smuggling techniques and seeds or shoots to China.
There were only five such parks in China when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) assumed office in May 2008, but that number increased to 20 in 2009 and to 25 at the end of last year.
One of these parks, Zhangping Yongfu, markets itself as the “Chinese Alishan” (阿里山) and has become the largest settlement of Taiwanese-style Oolong tea in China.
Encouraged by the success of these parks, the Fujian Province Agricultural Department said on Monday last week that it was pushing for the creation of three national-level innovative parks in China.
In a report released in February, Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture said inspections of the parks in November last year showed that they were systematically importing top-grade products from Taiwan, as well as personnel and techniques to enhance and upgrade China’s traditional agriculture.
The report said that everything from management and shoots were imported from Taiwan at the Zhangpu Park in Fujian and that most of the agricultural products planted there were top-of-the line fruit, including golden pineapples, black pearl modifications of bell fruit, lychee, the modified Japanese persimmon kaki, dragon fruit with red fruit meat and pineapple-flavored custard apples, as well as aiwen, yuwen and golden mangoes.
The current focus at the Zhangpu Park was on dragon fruit, the report said.
Chinese fruit growers are not well educated on product rights protection, the report said, adding that some could mass produce varieties of Taiwanese fruit from only a branch or shoot off the original tree.
Oolong tea species and techniques for making the tea have been fully exported to the parks, and some tea leaves are even sold back to Taiwan through Vietnam or in crates that may have found their way back into Taiwan via the “small three links,” the report said.